Thursday, November 3, 2011

Global Endorsement of CCS, Including EOR

At a recent meeting of the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF) in Beijing, energy and environment ministers from 25 countries and the European Commission pledged their continuing support for CCS as a key technology to help combat climate change. In an official communique, they declared,

CCUS [carbon capture, utilization, and storage] is a necessary technology essential to enabling us to achieve our climate goals and which has been proven safe and effective in all current demonstration projects and applications around the world. We must urgently increase the number of large CCUS demonstrations to enable the deployment of CCUS commercially by the end of this decade.

Apart from repeating a general commitment to CCS, the statement appeared to serve at least three other, interrelated purposes. First, ministers sought to reassure stakeholders that public support for CCS would continue even in a turbulent world economy. Second, ministers agreed to extend the life of the CSLF indefinitely beyond its current expiration date of 2013. Third, ministers sought to expand the scope of the Forum from conventional CCS (carbon, capture, and storage) to CCUS, reflecting the additional use of captured carbon dioxide in chemical processes and especially in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations.

In EOR, carbon dioxide injections are used to pump otherwise inaccessible oil from depleted fields. Endorsing EOR is likely to generate some controversy, since EOR produces more oil and thus leads to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. However, any increase in emissions caused by expanded EOR will be small, both in absolute terms, given the scale of global fossil fuel consumption, and in relative terms, given the large mitigation and reduction potential that such technology development will likely make possible. On balance, support for EOR is justified based on this cost-benefit calculus, and its embrace by the CSLF should be welcomed.

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